Sunday, 29 September 2013

Petit a Petit

Our house is just in view, bottom left is a gable end and ours is just visible behind it and to the left
l'oiseau fait la nid...

We have just returned from another two weeks.  This year has been great for progress - but during this stay, the house joined the 21st century.

Taking the Thursday night ferry from Plymouth, we arrived Friday tea time at our house.  As it has been very dry for a while at the house, we parked (for the first time) on our own land.  What a great feeling.

We were hoping, but afraid to hope, that my niece had been right with her translation of a text received from Luc Faure, the contractor who was to install our fosse septique.

After receiving an email from Ruth & Gareth (the english couple who have managed to achieve their fully fledged new life in France) that they had their new fosse, I sent an sms to M. Faure  to ask if we could speak with him whilst we were in France in September to see when he would be able to install ours.  The reply was 'Je suis entrain d installer votre fosse.'  I understood all but the word entrain.  Google translate said 'trying'; which could have meant I am trying; I have been trying (for the last 3 years but cant get access); or I will try.  I really wasnt sure.  My niece said it meant 'I am doing it now.'

The hope was that he would, as we could then install a toilet, even if we needed to take a bucket up to make it flush.  (Still had no water to the interior).  However, the down side was that the money which we had saved over the last 3 months was now about to be swallowed up in paying for the fosse, rather than progressing the house.....   Always, a double edge to the sword.  We have been managing for the last 4 years, so maybe we could wait a bit longer.

Looking at the ground around the soon to be parking area, we could see the signs that heavy machinery had been there when there had been wet weather........ Looking passed the trees, nearer to the dependance, we were able to see that sure enough, we had a fosse.  The mound of earth which had accumulated from the excavation for the new floors had gone (definite bonus) and there were 'manholes' in the garden, for inspection of the pipes work with a very definite impression left in the ground of the actual receiver of the 'evacuations'  as the french call it.

Next, we had to investigate the work which had been done by Michel le Pierre - which was to render the wall of orange block which had been built by M. Mazeau.

We weren't disappointed - this is what it looks like now.

We unpacked and soon had set up - We had both had a terrible sleep on the ferry.  The pillow should be ashamed to be called was flat as a pancake and I dont think either of us slept much.  An early night was necessary.

Before we left England, we had contacted the company who had been holding the Rayburn which we bought about 18 months ago and asked them to arrange delivery.

I was assure that it was no problem and it would be with us by the end of the first week.

You might think that it is rather early in the progress of the house to think about the range being brought out, and I would agree.  However, having had a couple of experiences now where we have ended up out of pocket by trusting people with our money, I suddenly had an instinct that we should get it delivered, as we might end up without the money or the goods, again. (I hasten to add, not at the hands of the company who had referbed our Rayburn, but others.)

Thinking that we had everything under control, we headed into Gannat to look round the market, which we had not allowed ourselves the time to do for over 2 years!  We did find that it is a bit smaller than the last time we went, but I guess no one is immune to the effects of the recession.

George had come along for his usual road trip and we were a little concerned that he might not behave well around the geese, ducks and chickens for sale, but he wasn't in the least bit interested.  Maybe that bodes well for when we have our own?

We also visited a shop called WELDOM. They have just about everything we could think of.  Buying a toilet which was on special offer, we had to find the correct connector, as Simon was quite stressed that the hole was in the wall for the pipe work, but might not be at the right height.  We managed to find a flexi hose and some other bits, like a sealing cement and headed home. (It's so nice to use that word.  Sometimes, it feels that we dont have a home and that we are lodging somewhere, rootless.  I do look forward to when I can live in my home.)

The toilet was surprisingly heavy, so we got the wheelbarrow to the back of the car, to transport it over to the house.  I suggested we unpack it to get it up the ladder and into the bathroom, which we did, and Simon attached the hose to the loo and the hole in the wall, using the cement to seal.  We now just had to wait 24 hours for this to set before we could risk putting water into it.

We carried on like this for a couple of days, savouring the pleasure of having a loo in the house.  It was only a slight dampener to have to carry water from the back of the house, around and up the ladder.  The pleasure was amazing.  You certainly appreciate the convenience of things, when you have been without for a prolonged period.

Simon and I carried on as usual, getting what jobs we are capable of, done.  I discovered that the door to the end of the bread oven, where the pigeons used to roost, had come off one of its hinges in the intervening months, and Dominique, our immediate neighbour had removed it totally, as it was flapping in the wind and might have come off and damaged her car.

When I investigated the door, it was obvious that it was not worth re-instating it, so said to Simon that we should make a new on.  We thought it would be easy enough.......  a bit of T & G and a bit of wood for a brace, how difficult could it be?

We measured the door hole and off I toddled to Cheze.  The chap was so helpful.  I bought two lengths of T & G and he cut them to the length we had not so accurately taken.  I then wanted a piece of batten like wood to use for the brace.  Sure enough, they had the perfect thing, already chamfered, so that saved me a job.  He was going to cut this for me too, but was concerned as to the length of the cross piece.  He spoke to a colleague and they were trying to work out on paper how long it needed to be.  Me - ever practical, took my tape measure off the pocket of my jeans, as though I was drawing a sword...Pulled out the tape and measured the distance between the two pieces of wood........  Job done. Next, I wanted something to fix it all together with.  Having acted as Chippies mate in a previous life, I knew that a professional would nail each tongue to the brace.....  Sorry, but I needed something a little more simple, as my control of the hammer is not that great and I usually end up with bent nails, painful thumbs/fingers and a cross temper.  (My saw action isn't bad though.)  Again, Cheze had just the thing, so I headed the the Caisse  and paid.

Proudly returning home with all my goodies, I showed Simon what I'd bought.  I think it all cost about €20.  I got the drill and bits and all the little gadgets that go with the drill and set to work - using the step as a work bench,  I'm not that professional.  Also, we dont have a work bench, and as with most things, use what we find and make do.  There is a certain song which goes through my head, you might know it by the video...  "Push me".  Placing all the T & G pieces together and then 'professionally' measuring where the ledges should go, proceeded to drill holes and put these 'bolts' that I'd bought through the holes and tightening up the bolts.  Just about finishing the last one, Pierre, the chap who had done the work over the last winter for us, appeared with Gareth who was coming to aid with translation.  Pierre was here to find out what we want him to do and so it was quite important to ensure that we were understanding each other.  As it turned out, Gareth thought that I was doing just fine and didnt really need assistance.

Pierre asked what we had been up to since we arrived.  I proudly (yet rather shyly at the same time) showed him my door......  It was just about ready for varnishing.  Pierre picked up the ratchet screw driver and put the right socket into it and showed me that rather than leaving the studs exposed on the other side, all we needed to do was to tighten the nut up and it pulled the stud into the wood.  Hey presto, I now had a professional looking studded door.  I fell in love with those bolts there and then.  We also told him that we had installed a toilet and that we were putting water down it to flush.  Pierre went up and had a look and was impressed with what Simon had done.  He said he would be back the next day with the necessary bits and he would connect up the water for us, so that we would have a flushing toilet! HEAVEN!  He also said he would let us have an old kitchen sink as a temporary measure to make life easier.  He would connect it all up and discounting that we would still need to boil up the water on the stove, we were now also able to boast a functioning kitchen sink!

This proved to be a bit more of a struggle than expected in actual fact, as the 'kitchen' was still in the snug as was the table, so all dishes had to be transferred with no work surface to put them on and then go back for the hot water, washing, drying and returning for more dirties in relay......  But we were getting there!

We have arranged works for the winter with Pierre and when we return in April/May 2014, (5 years after we bought it!! ) we should be able to put up the kitchen in the room where it will actually go in future, even if it is still the camp kitchen.

Simon cracked on building a wall down the side of the barn to retain the pipe work taking the rainwater away from the back of the house.  He did a really good job....

Here you can see that the pipe is about to disappear under a step.

During all this time, there was no sign of the rayburn.

On the Wednesday of the second week, I was starting to get quite anxious about it.  In the afternoon, I received a call from the French delivery company.  They were shocked with the news that we were due to leave on the Sunday and would not be back for several months.  I was told that the package would not arrive in Paris until Thursday and there was no way it could be delivered in time.  EEEK!  He said he would call me back the next day.  Sure as eggs are eggs, he called me back Thursday afternoon to say that they would be able to deliver on Friday. Amazing..... it was being brought down over night I guess.

Friday dawned and we had no idea when the package would arrive, but amazingly, it arrived about 10 am.  This then became the next instalment of the fiasco's.  I dont know what a Rayburn weighs, but I'm sure its pretty heavy.  The guy only had a manual sack truck and could not get the delivery wagon down the Impasse because it was too tall to pass under the wires.  He got it off the lorry and onto the sack truck.  He looked at the Impasse and said no way, could he get the range down to the house.

I wonder if I'm a good negotiator, or just plain determined.  Suffice to say, we did get him to deliver it, on the sack truck to the double doors of the house.  Stage one of delivery complete.  Now how do we get it into the house.  I wondered if a local farmer (of which there are many) might have a tractor with a fork on the front, who could just lift it over the threshold for us.

I went hot foot up to the Mairie, as it clearly could not stay where it was.

On reaching the Mairie, Dominique who works there (and a different person altogether to our neighbour who is also called Dominique) was concerned as I was out of breath and she realised I had rushed up the hill.  I think she thought that we must have a dire emergency, as in all the 4 years we have had the house, we have never asked for help.

I explained the problem as best I could and the Maire was in his office at the time.  One of the deputy Maires (Christian) who I had passed on the way up as he was mucking out his cows, was working just behind the Mairie.  M. Ragacki, our Maire, leaned out of the window and asked if Christian would have a look at our problem and see if he could help.  Christian said to give him 5 minutes whilst he went and got his van - he'd be right with us.  I route-marched Georgie, who had been conned into thinking that he was going for a nice walk, back to the house.  When I got back, Simon couldn't believe I'd even gone, it had all been so quick.  Two minutes later, Christian arrived.  He wanted to know what was in the packaging and proceeded to unwrap the cling-film and cardboard which was protecting my range.  I didn't want this to happen, but it was fair enough that he wanted to see what he was dealing with, and after all, we were asking for his help.  When he got to the range, we could see that one of the new lids had come off its hinge in transit, but the good thing about all of these less technical bits of equipment is that you dont need to be an expert to fix it.

Christian thought that our Rayburn was 'beau' but wanted to know how much of it he could take apart to lighten the load.  Now I really was getting concerned.  He might take it all apart and leave us to put it back together.  I didnt want that to happen at all.  I think he could tell from my expression, so stopped trying to take it apart.

He asked if there was someone else in the village we could ask for help, I said Pierre Benedetti was helping us and doing some work, maybe he was in the village today and would help us.  Christian said he would call on Pierre and they would be back at 2pm after lunch.

Simon was worried that I hadn't understood Christian properly and that we were supposed to call Pierre.  I was doubting myself by this time and so called Pierre (I didnt want Christian turning up and we were no further forward than in the morning.)  Pierre said that Christian had been to see him and he would see us at 2pm.

Once again, bang on the dot, Christian and Pierre arrived separately in what appears to be the favourite vehicle in the area, the Berlingo.  Pierre's 2 year old son, Angel was with him and he was sucking on his dummy, telling us he was here to help his Daddy work.  He is such a little cutie and is about the same age as my Granddaughter.  I wondered if they would meet at some point and play together?  It would be lovely if when Kayla visits, she knew there was a little person that she could relate to.

Whilst the men got to work, I took on the role of child minder.  Angel wanted to build, tie things up with rope and wrap the rope around his arm in his best impression of copying his dad.  The he saw the cement mixer...... He wanted to load it up with everything he could find, tip water in it from every source he could find water and wanted me to turn it on.  I told him it was broken and he very obviously didnt believe me!  He just kept on putting everything he could find into it and wanted me to lift him up every now and then, so that he could see the progress he was making, filling it up.

Then he spied the trench Simon had dug to bury the rain water pipe which came down the front of the house.   Oh, was that like a kiddy in a sweet shop!  He found a spade ( my mortar board for pointing)  picked up sand from one of the bags of sand (the big kind, which hold 1 cubic metre) which Simon had almost emptied and was now well within the reach of a two year old and proceeded to fill in the trench (which still needed filling in).  Angel has obviously closely observed his dad working, he knew just what to do and after filling the hole with sand, started back filling it for us.  What a helpful boy!

Its a pity he spoiled this good work.  George, who is not used to children at all, had been following Angel all this time, and thought he was great - Angel however, decided that an old bramble cane which he found, and which was flayed on the end, was the perfect thing with which to hit George.  Poor George had no idea what was happening, he's never been hit in his life and was cowering away from Angel.  I was trying to hold Angel at arms length so that he could no-longer reach George and at the same time reassure George that it was ok, no one was going to hurt him like that.  The men, by this time, having finished getting the range over the threshold and into the house were standing around talking and having a beer.  When Pierre realised what was going on, I think he was mortified.  He came over to Angel and said in a very firm but not unkind way "Non! Jamais, jamais'  Which was telling Angel ' you dont do that'.  Angel look very unhappy at this, but soon recovered when it came time to pick up daddies rope and put it into the back of the car.  And so, the latest crisis had been averted and my range was at last in its new home, even if it is too soon to fit it.

On the social front, we were invited to M. Benchereau's for Sunday lunch again.  She is such a good cook and feeds us up very well.  She also plied us with Rothschild champagne!  She had told us during the week, that it had been her 65th birthday in August and that we were to come for lunch.  We were a little worried that it was going to be a full on birthday party.  Conversing with Guiguite on a one to one basis is one thing.  I feel relaxed and can manage (I think, unless she is extremely polite, which is quite likely!) but to be in the middle of a gathering for someones birthday..... different matter altogether.  I went the Gannat the day before to see what I could find as a present.  I went in to two or three of the nice dress shops, looking for inspiration and finally settled on a lovely scarf which hopefully would keep her warm in the winter.

It funny really, Guiguite would not be flattered to know that I think of her like a Grandmother figure - she is only 13 years older than me, but I think its because Camille was so much older, I forget that she was 20 years younger.

We managed to wade our way through the enormous lunch she provided.  We could not eat anything else for 24 hours!  Poor Simon was fit to pop (and that's saying something, cos he can pack it away!)  I think (hope) that Guiguite enjoyed our company as we enjoy hers.  I certainly make her laugh, but that's probably with my bad French.  Like the time that I told the gardener that Simon was having an affair (my bad french) when I was really trying to say in answer to his question as to why simon does not speak much, as he understands the language.  I was trying to say that he's anxious of making a mistake.... but it was me that was making the mistake, using the wrong word!

On the Wednesday, Annie, Denis and Michel came around for dinner and we had a lovely evening as always.  We certainly got through the 'supplies' and the next morning, it took me until lunch time to wash up.  I put it down to the relay that was necessary moving things to my new sink and back and boiling water.  The truth is somewhere between there and a headacheless hangover.

When we went to the Chateau on the Friday for dinner, Annie greeted us with a lovely glass of fizz with a lychee in.  I thought this was lovely and really enjoyed it, until it occured to me that the Lychee looked like an eyeball in the bottom of the glass.....  then I had difficulty actually eating it!

Annie is such a savvy lady.  The fizz she was serving came in a bottle with an orange label and I immediately thought OMG... she's serving us Veuve Clicquot.......  She was wearing this lovely blue dress and cardi, with contrasting shoes and a fabulous ring that was an inch square and blue.

During the evening, after we'ed all had a bit to drink, I asked if I could look at her ring and asked her if it was a saphire.  She just told me to look at the back.  Being blind as a bat close up, I had no chance of reading anything but that wasnt what I wanted anyhow.  It was just lovely to hold it and admire - the nearest I'm ever going to come to such a jewel..  Simon asked to have a look and the next day, he told me it was Cartier.  I guess it was real then!

But back to the fizz.  After Annie invited Simon and I for a tour of her private apartments which are in the process of being done up ( and let me tell you, they are mind blowing.  Not my style but boy...... amazing all the same) we settle down to chat around the kitchen table and have a little more to drink.  I picked up the bottle of fizz saw that it wasn't Veuve.  Phew!  I really would feel like the peasant at the big house, as I'd only been able to afford Blanquette de Limoux, which is rather nice, but not in the same class, obviously.

I thought I'd make a mental note so that I could buy some, as it was rather nice.  You will never believe me if I tell you how much it cost!  I brought a couple of bottles back with me, but only two, as I wasnt sure when I saw the price, whether it was the Lychee's and juice making it so nice.  Let me just say, I wish I had known then what I know now.  I would have brought a couple of cases back and still had change from the price of one bottle of the Rothschild, which was on the shelf at €25!  I could learn a lot from Annie, that's for sure!  Maybe it would mean I could own a Cartier ring!

Sadly, the end of our stay came and when the alarm went on the Sunday morning, I told Simon I would rather stay where I was, with all the inconveniences that we were dealing with that return to the stressful atmosphere that we live in.  I know that each time we have to come back, it is going to get harder, as the house becomes more habitable.  But here and now, let me apologise to all those who felt my blues on the return.  When reality of the next 7 months dawned on me, I sank into a pit of dispair......  I'm not the biggest fan of Dr Who, but when David Tenant regenerated his last words were "I dont want to go" and I'm afraid that I really felt it this time.

Life is beginning to return to my house - Gareth and Ruth have a self sown Cherry tree for us (and they are told by the village elders that their cherry tree is the best in the village).  Ruth has said that she will come and plant it for us and also water it until it take.  The live at least a mile away and I cant get over the generosity of making the trip every few days to water a tree for us.  I offered to fill out water but up, so that they only had to use the watering can across the garden.  Ruth was adamant it wasnt necessary, she would bring some with her in the car.  She is also putting some herbs into my little kitchen garden, so when we go out next year, it will be starting to look like someone does love it and will be living there.  (In the picture above of the render, you can see Simon placed some stones to mark out my kitchen garden.  I'm not thrilled about the squareness of it, but I dare say, it will change.
and now - Sept 2013

This is how the house looked when we bought it.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Mid Way between here and there....

I say that, because we are mid way -  in so many ways.  We are starting on the inside at last, for one.  Pierre has done an excellent job in removing all the rubbish insulation and plasterboard from the room above the Snug and has completely re-insulated, put up new metallic battening for the plaster board, put in the pipe work to the bathroom, made the shell for the bathroom, put in the electrics and done such an amazing job on the plaster boarding that the room is looking fab.

Simon spent the best part of the time we were there clearing up the mountain of debris which had amassed over the 4 years...... Stone, wood, tiles etc and the difference is amazing......

There were many more installments for the 'diary'.  One involved a 5.5 metre oak beam, which was 30 x 30 cm..... They reckon it weighs about 600 cwt.   I was pressing for its delivered in the hope that the first floor in the barn could be started.......  Pierre was worried as to how Cheze would even be able to deliver it, as the gap between the houses at the mouth of the Impasse is just car width and the new entrance at the other side is no wider........  Luckily, they obviously have lots of experience with problem locations, as this amazing delivery 'trike' forklift just picked up the beam and traveled sideways down the alley.....  In hind sight, I wish I had some photo's but at the time, other things were more important.

We had arranged with Will, Michel and Denis to come around for 3 pm as this was the time Cheze said they would deliver......  Nearly 3 hours later before it arrived.  This was lucky really as Madame Benchereau's
(previously aka Pearl because of her silvery crash helmet and now know as Giguite) son had arrived and he offered his help.  A neighbour also arrived at their house and Thierry, (Giguite's son) went and fetched him (another Bernard as it turned out) to help too

When the trike delivered the beam, as the ground was very soft and the beam and trike weighed a lot, it got stuck in the ground.  Our lovely new access road became a target for the forks on the trike, as the only way out for him was to push himself backwards.  We then ran around like headless chickens throwing old roofing tiles into the holes he had created, so that the trike could have some traction to move forwards. Eventually, after a bit of sweaty anxiety on both sides, the trike was freed and went back to the lorry for loading.......

So there we now were, a 5.5 metre beam of oak  - We all looked at each other to see who was going to have the bight idea and to figure out how we were going to get this 600 cwt beam the remaining 30 metres.  Bernard said he would fetch his tractor and we could drag it to the barn.  Small problem.... A pile of stone that had taken Simon 4 days to amass, ready for a wall, lay in the way.  Whilst Bernard went to get his tractor ( I think he is now destined to be known as Bernard le tracteur) the remaining group set to work and set about clearing the stones......... 20 minutes, that's all it took to part the stones like the parting of the seas.....

Bernard arrived with his trusty old tractor and proceeded to tie it to our big beam, whilst we placed fence posts which Pierre produced from the back of his van, along the expected path.  This worked really well until the tractor reached the limit of the land, before the ditch which currently is taking the drainage pipes from the rear of the house, but which will become a patio.  We then had to improvise, using a couple of stout beams to guide the monster oak beam into the barn, whilst Bernard used a third beam to push the monster with his tractor.  Finally, as light faded and the rain started, we managed to get the beam into the barn.  One thing for sure, no one will run off with that without a fight!!

Returning Home


This is a view of the village just the other side of the valley - Charroux.  It is Medievil and very lovely to visit.  It is also able to boast the cleanest public convenience.  I mention this, because we have, up until now, had to visit the public loo's in either Bellenaves or Charroux; however I have it on good authority that when we arrive in just a couple of weeks now, we will have our Fosse installed (at last). 

I think it may be our own fault that M. Faure had not been able to carry out the installation before, due to the large amount of rubble etc., which had accumulated during our work on the house.  As mentioned in our previous blog, Simon spent a lot of time an energy in both sweltering heat and bucketing rain last April, clearing up the mess outside the dependance.( see below)

We haven't been able to see so much of this area for a good 3 years!

M. Ragacki, the Mayor of Naves came to see us one day and I spoke to him about the possibility of the Fosse now being installed, as we have the new entrance.  He thought that our original access was the most likely access way - and this may have proved to be the case.  I'm sure we will find out more in just a few weeks.

It's always good to look back on the pictures to remind us of how far we have actually come.  It is taking a long time, and this year, the problem has been keeping up financially.  Having jumped the hurdle of James running off with our money and leaving us with no roof, to clearing the hurdles of redundancy and temping at a time of year (Christmas) where there was no work around, I think we are actually doing ok.

The view from the bedroom door will be of the dining area, kitchen and exposed beam work of the other bedroom opposite (which still has to be created) but you get an impression of what it looks like in this picture.

Once the roof is insulated you will only see the major beams but it will be awsome and I dont use that word often!

Looking back on the improvement to the floors! 

All the pipe work is now in for the evacuation for the kitchens and bathrooms, so all we need is the Fosse and we can start to function more normally :-)

Lets see what the next trip brings.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The start of a New Year :-)

M. Beaudonnet delivered :-)  we are soooo happy.

Work is starting on the inside this week and we feel that we are finally actually starting to see the house that we have always envisaged.

I'm actually lost for words.  We'll be there in just a few weeks and we can't wait to see it 'in the flesh'.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


SO exciting - hot off the press.....

This will sooo change the look of the front of the house.  The porte-fenetre is being made by a carpentry workshop in the next village.... cant wait to see what it will look like when its installed.

Thierry is to to the left of this picture and is the person who opened this up for us :-)

In the picture below, you get a true picture of the height we are looking at.....Thierry is same height as Simon - 6ft 3 inches.........

 Below is the view from inside.  When the window is installed (and all the rubbish cleaned up) imagine that there is a courtyard in front of you, which is walled on three sides........ filled with sun in the summer and winter.

Amy had a particular song playing when she came to stay - white wine in the sun...... It will be the perfect place for it :-)   I'm sooo happy :-)

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Turning the Corner

We have returned from another two week stint at the house and this time, it feels like the house is actually turning the corner.  Simon, Amy and I  arrived early evening on 1st September to beautiful sunshine and about 25 degrees.  Bearing in mind that this was the day that we saw the first blue sky for weeks, we were all in high spirits.  It was interesting that the cloud bank actually lasted as far south as Tours!  

When we arrived, Mme Benchereau was outside her house and after the usual bisous, her first words were 'you have 4 cats living at your house'.  Where had they come from?  We were a little worried at first that there would be fur flying, as George hates cats with a passion.  Luckily, after about 36 hrs they decamped.  I found out much later that they hadn't gone far, only to chez Bernard, about 100m away.  I hope that when we left, they returned to their earlier'll find out why later!  

Within an hour of having arrived, Simon bumped into Mon St Michel (formerly Michel le lip) in Bellenaves.  Michel told him that Annie has closed the pub permanently and so Simon invited Michel, Annie and Will (We met him on a previous visit) round the next night.......  We hit the ground running socially!  Luckily the supermarkets were open on the Sunday morning, so whilst Simon got us organised at home, Amy and I went and got the necessaries.  We had a lovely evening with Annie & Co., as usual, ending in an impromptu invite to the Chateau for a late supper.  Amy, Simon and I had eaten at lunch time at La Belfoi in Charroux, but an invite to the Chateau couldnt be turned down, so the party decamped to Veauce and we carried on in Annies kitchen.  Visiting the Chateau for the first time was AMAZING.  Annie has a white peacock, which we think she said was called Cedric.  It was roosting in this massive tree which is in the courtyard of the Chateau and is visible over the castlated walls..... The evening ended in the early hours of the morning, having been treated to roast chicken (carved by Will....but really it looked like a bomb had gone off inside......I think we had all had rather a lot to drink by this time!).  Apologising to Annie for eating and running, we ended our first full day back at home - and what a day it had been :-)  

The next morning being Monday, Michel (le Pierre) who does all the stone work for us arrived at 8am as promised.  Simon and I had been up early thanks to setting the alarm.  This was our holiday and we were setting the alarm to get up for work!!  Whilst I went off down to Cheze with Michel (le Pierre) to order sand etc., Simon started to collect stones to build in the opening which we were hoping to enclose.  Michel was amazing - Cheze said they couldnt deliver until Friday and Michel said not good enough, I need the sand today.  Its amazing to me that he was able to 'demand' the sand and cement be delivered urgently, but as a Frenchman, I suppose he knows what he can get away with.  I would have just looked like a rabbit in headlights wondering what I was going to do, if I had gone on my own!!  We went home and Michel said he would be back after lunch, the delivery was due until apres midi.  

Amy - pointing up where our new windows have been installed.

To back track a little - about 2 weeks before leaving England, we had tried to order a window on the Lapeyre web site.  As our house had not been inhabited for about 30 years previously, it does not show up on data bases, so we could not manage to use this facility.  So I faxed the Vichy branch with a picture and dimensions and said that I had sent them a cheque but as we were unable to use the online facility could they please order a window for us to collect from 2nd Sept onwards.  Before I tell you whether we were successful, ask yourself this.  Would it have been successful if a local builder received a fax from someone in France ordering 1 window??  We had checked our postbox that morning to find a letter from Lapeyre in Vichy confirming that our window would be ready for collection from 2nd onwards.  An additional bonus was that the price had gone down from that advertised on the web, so we had sent a cheque for over 50% - yeay!!  So back to the story.......

Simon and I said to Amy that we would go to Vichy  and pick up the window and be back before the end of the lunch break, so she would not be alone when the delivery of sand arrived. Guess what - it arrived about 30 mins after we left, so we had sand by 11 am that morning - amazing.  Michel had said that he wanted the camion to back into our courtyard and deliver there as barrowing from the Impasse was hard work (in temperatures of 25 degrees plus.)  Poor Amy, she has little French and isnt confident to use what she has, so we ended up with the sand dumped behind the car which Henri & Dominic have rusting in front of their garage.  Needless to say, they weren't too amused at 3 ton of sand sitting where they usually put their garden table!  Amy was good as gold and started shovelling.  When we returned from Vichy with the window, she had already moved quite a substantial amount into our courtyard and remembered that Michel had said that we should put the polythene down which he had bought previously...... so was loading the sand onto this.  We had a quite bite to eat and Simon set to in earnest, moving the sand.  Michel arrived and work on blocking up the old animal entrance, which will become the window over my sink, began.  (By the way, whilest at Lapeyre, we saw the most amazing sink..... it comes under the category of I.W.O.T and as it is 400 euro's its a good job that Simon totally agrees.  In fact he spotted it, so that's deal done.  Just need to get to the part where we can buy it and install.  May have to buy it and ask someone to look after it for us.   under the ladder, you can see the hole which we were about to start work on, building in.  To the right, you can see the finished product.  The window fitted for width, almost as though made especially...  This will give me a view over the courtyard when finished.  We'll put trellis around, to soften and are planning to 'plant' an oak beam over the surface of the concrete lintel which was there when we bought the place.  The wall being what it is, we didn't want to mess with it by taking out the lintel.

Whilst Simon and Michel were working on building this wall up (2ft thick of stone!) Amy and I began pointing up the end wall of the barn.  Simon and I had often sat looking at this wall and saying what beautiful stone was in the wall, how regular it all was and how it wouldn't take long to point because of that.   This is what it looked like when we started....
and this is what it looked like after about 10 days of attention....... 
Add caption
We had previously had a problem with how the end of the barn roof had been left, balancing on a piece of wood which stood on the outside edge of the wall.....  We had asked Celine & Pierre (of Atelier) to secure the roof for us.  When we arrived, we could see that work had been done internally but the external looked just the same.  When we asked Thierry (who had done this work for us) about it, he told us that the roof was nailed to this piece of wood, so he couldn't remove it, as I had suggested.  As we were nearing the top of the wall with the pointing (more accurately, I was) we had to find a way of making this look good and getting the guttering up and the roof over this part finished.  (Another bit of the roof which still was unfinished!)  Thierry came up with an ideal solution, practical and aesthetic :-)

I'm so proud of this wall.... I now want the same effect along
all of the front of the house!  You can just see our new window
too, which when we spoke with M. Mazeau a year ago, thought
was 'bizarre'  I dont think it looks that bad and it actually looks
like its on the same level as the one on the end of the barn.

Next, Simon decided to rebuild the steps to the door which is used as our front door..... Thierry offered his advice, which at first, Simon was dubious about, but following his suggestion, was pleased with the outcome - as was George.  He loved how cool the stones were to lay on in the sunshine.  Its now safe to sit with a chair and there is room to pass by.

Thierry worked with us for about 3 days and in that time, what he achieved was phenomenal.  if we could only have him for the whole of the three weeks when we go next year.....  We'll get a lot done but it does come at a price!  Any how, the best news of all, is that we have now got the roof finished.  After 3 years of battling with it, we have now finally sealed it..... IT FEELS SO GOOD, to finally be moving on passed the bloody roof!!!!!!

In this pic, you can see the port fenetre which was put in last October and also the two windows which Michel le Pierre has done for us during the time between our last two visits.  You can also see where Amy has been pointing around the windows for us.  It is certainly starting to look like a house in the making.

The shadow being caste by the tree over the windows was gratefully received by Amy whilst she was working in that area.  Below is the same picture, taken from the edge of the land which we also bought last September.  It gives you some idea of the distance between the barn and the edge of our land, just by how small the barn looks in the picture.  The trees mark our old boundary.

This pic shows where Simon spent a couple of days dealing with a couple of issues which had been concerning him.  Both Michel and Thierry say that we have no worries, there is no movement on the walls.  This work will definitely show if anything is moving - when we arrive next year, we will be able to measure this pic against what it looks like then.  As you can see, that back corner, which was always a worry to Simon has now been filled with cement to make sure that its secure, along with where the walls meet in the corner.  I dont this was ever properly tied together and the water ingress over the years of neglect did the rest.
Our lovely windows from the inside.....  They will look amazing when its all done.  The light which they let in now is making such a difference.  Bearing in mind that the colour inside the barn absorbs any light which comes in.

Thought this pic would also give you a better ideal of how it will look, looking through the porte fenetre of the barn, out onto the garden, which will have a terrace onto a raised area and then the vegetable garden.  Thik we'll have to put some kind of attractive hedging up.. maybe.  

We had several lovely evening with people in the village, but there was a bit of bad news.  Mr Benchereau, who has always been so lovely, encouraging and kind, has been taken into hospital, seriously ill and I am afraid that he won't be there when we come back next year.  

On a lighter note, when Gareth and Ruth came for a visit, they told us that the cold snap we had experienced in April had meant that there were very few trees in the village with fruit this year.  They were amazed when they saw just how heavily laden our plum trees were.  It is something that will take me several years to become immune to the pure pleasure of picking a plum off the tree and eating it, warm from the sun.

There were so many on our trees though, that we couldn't eat them fast enough, so we made jam.  My bread maker has a program for jam making and so all I had to do was buy some preserving sugar and off we went.  It was so successful that I think Simon and I must have picked 10 kilo's of plums without making much of an impression on the tree- all of this I turned into confiture, giving Annie, Michel (Mon St Michel) Mme Benchereau, Dominique a la Mairie, Gareth & Ruth a pot each.

 First batch, standing on top of the armoire we bought from the Brocante at Charroux in April.  Ruth and Gareth have also offered us a couple of self sewn Cherry trees - I cant tell you how much being there makes me smile, 'strokes' and soothes my soul and fills me with a peace.  I love making things and as I said in my previous blog, it always feels just the right place to be - baking bread, cakes, making jam, craft work - you name it.  I can't wait until I'm there for good to be able to vent that part of me.

We have left the house with reluctance, except for one thing....I mentioned the kittens earlier.  The reason for hoping they come back is some of the 'wild life' which is in residence.  One morning, having heard scrabbling all night, I saw a mouse sitting in the corner of the room, just looking at me.  He/she wasn't a bedraggled, sick, horrible looking thing, it was actually very  lovely and only the thought that they constantly piddle everywhere made me want to do something.  Fortunately for him/her, they disappeared before I or George could do anything, but I do hope that the kittens move back and deal with this for me.  I have read that cats urine cuts down the breading ability of mice - three cats, predating would sought the problem out, I hope!

Thursday, 31 May 2012

And the Wheel Turns.......

As things start to go better in France, then the wheel turns and things in England arn't so good as it looks like my job will cease to exist past July.  Thankfully, Simon's job, which pays the bills appears secure!  We think that if the worst happns and I am layed off, then I will go to France for a while and progress the work#

It is a case of watch this space!!

About us

My Photo
Simon works for Sainsbury's as a Department Manager has a multi-million pound turn over annually on his department and works all hours God sends. I am Events Monkey. I call myself that, as my actual title is unknown!! Just responsible for any event, function, conference, meeting etc.,etc., that happens on the campus where I work. I'd be better being called an Events Elephant, as I'm paid peanuts and expected to work all hours known to man. This is the tale of how we decided to take the massive step to living a totally different life. Selling our home in England and moving to a fantastic little village in the Auvergne, including some of our adventures along the way.